People who gravitate to the research and development (R&D) side of the dietary supplement industry are a rare breed. It never ceases to amaze me how they can transform those oh-so-fuzzy product ideas that we lob their way into honest-to-goodness finished goods that offer consumers real value. To me, it’s both an art and science, and the pros tackle it with ease, starting with vetting ingredient suppliers.
Just what do R&D folks look for in an ingredient supplier? To answer this question, I asked industry consultant Rose Muatine, M.S. Rose holds a graduate degree in food science and has over 20 years of R&D experience in foods, beverages, and dietary supplements.
When deciding on whether to give an ingredient supplier the green light, Rose says she looks for key things that are a mark of quality to her. Here are five that top her list of must-haves:
1.) Suppliers that adhere to current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs). It’s tough to produce a high quality product without starting with equally high quality ingredients. “When cGMPs are in place,” explains Rose, “the supplier and R&D teams are really speaking the same language.” This not only makes the vendor qualification process easier, but allows the R&D department to start their evaluation process sooner.
2.) Suppliers that consistently deliver on time. “We prefer to work with reputable suppliers who deliver ingredients on time, every time,” says Rose. If a supplier promises a sample delivery date in three days and the manufacturing material in four weeks, the R&D team plugs those dates into their timeline and sends updates to the marketing, sales, and management teams. If a vendor fails to deliver on time, all those projected timelines start falling like a house of cards. That’s never pretty. If you promise, deliver.
3.) Suppliers that maintain good documentation. “Good documentation alone speaks volumes to R&D folks,” says Rose. For her, it’s one of the true measures of a quality operation. This includes the usual suspects — raw material specifications, certificates of analysis, material safety data sheets, allergen statements – among others. Keep good documentation, and you’ll never miss an opportunity to dazzle the R&D folks.
4.) Suppliers that offer technical support. Having a knowledgeable and experienced technical staff that can answer R&D’s questions is critical. “When technical issues arise, there is no better feeling for R&D folks than knowing an ingredient supplier has an expert at the ready who can promptly answer questions,” says Rose.
5.) Suppliers that offer innovative ingredients. “Cutting edge ingredients that are backed by robust clinical research are always popular among R&D folks,” says Rose. These ingredients often catch the eye of marketers, so R&D teams are especially eager to learn as much as they can for quick evaluation. Suppliers who deliver the right information in a timely manner are likely to have an advantage